La croissance contre la pauvreté

Le débat entre gouvernements, économistes et ONG sur le point de savoir dans quelle mesure les pauvres de la planète bénéficient de la croissance économique est sans fin. L'année dernière, The Economist assurait : "La croissance bénéficie aux pauvres : elle entraîne la croissance de leur revenu sensiblement dans les mêmes proportions que pour le reste de la population". Mais dans une lettre publiée peu après dans la même revue, Justin Forsyth de Oxfam affirmait : "… le type de croissance et de globalisation que nous connaissons élargit les inégalités de revenus et par conséquent constitue un obstacle à la diminution de la pauvreté".

Ces positions sont-elles inconciliables ? Pas nécessairement : d'un coté on parle de pauvreté absolue, de l'autre de pauvreté relative. Et les moyennes masquent de grosses différences : dans certains pays, les pauvres bénéficient de la croissance, tandis que dans d'autres ils sont trop démunis pour pouvoir en bénéficier. Autrement dit, on a raison de part et d'autre. Le tableau d'ensemble est cependant plus complexe.

Les études récentes réalisées durant les années 1990 confirment les résultats des études antérieures : il n'y a pratiquement pas de données permettant de conclure que la croissance s'accompagne d'une augmentation de l'inégalité des revenus, telle qu'elle est mesurée par les enquêtes sur les ménages aux échelons nationaux. Ce résultat est important. Car si la part du produit national revenant aux pauvres ne baisse pas en période de croissance, cela signifie qu'en terme absolu les pauvres sont gagnants; la croissance diminue la pauvreté, le ralentissement économique l'aggrave.

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